On 18 July, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) facilitated the voluntary and safe return of 28 Gambian migrants stranded in Algeria through a special return flight.
Made possible through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, funded by the European Union, the return movement also comprised of 9 unaccompanied minors. Prior to the movement, IOM established contact with their families to ensure their safe return.
All beneficiaries were assisted with remote identity verification through virtual interviews and subsequent issuance of emergency travel documents, with the crucial support of the Government of The Gambia.
“I was in Algeria since 2018. My purpose of leaving was to go to school and study, while I would work to make a leaving. Life was not easy” remarks Lamin*. “Now that I’m home, my future plan is to further my studies in business and information technology.”
The Gambia also served as a transit point for 19 Senegalese and 16 Sierra Leonean migrants. The Sierra Leonian migrants continued their travel on commercial flights with an accompanying escort, while the Senegalese migrants continued their trip home via land. IOM provided vital transit assistance, including temporary accommodation where needed, verification of documents, and assistance with exit procedures.
Prior to departure, IOM staff in Algeria provided all returning migrants with pre-departure counseling services, vulnerability screening, health assessments and facilitated COVID-19 PCR tests. Throughout the return process, COVID-19 preventive measures were diligently followed in line with international health protocols; returnees were provided with masks, hand sanitizers, and COVID-19 information materials in different languages.
“As part of its continued support to the protection of migrants, the European Union is proud to contribute to this safe and dignified voluntary return of Gambian and ECOWAS migrants to their countries. We thank the Gambian authorities for facilitating these returns from Algeria, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted transport on the continent. With our partner, IOM, the EU will support the returnees in their reintegration into their communities,” said H.E. Corrado Pampaloni, the EU Ambassador to The Gambia.
“In light of continued pandemic-related restrictions, travel remains challenging for many migrants around the world,” adds Fumiko Nagano, IOM’s Chief of Mission in The Gambia. “This has highlighted the life-saving nature of IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme, which provides a viable option for migrants who wish to return home but need assistance to do so.”
Upon arrival in The Gambia, returnees received a comprehensive orientation on the process of receiving reintegration assistance – which may include economic, social, and psychosocial support, tailored to each returnee’s needs.
Since 2017, IOM has supported the return and/or reintegration of over 6,000 Gambians stranded along key migration routes and destination countries.